In financial services, “closing the deal” can mean up to a month of sending paperwork back-and-forth. Some firms are using technology to meet evolving client needs and pull ahead. Others are being left behind.
An incorrectly signed form or an impromptu business trip out of the country can further delay getting complete, original signatures. This not only negatively impacts the client experience, but can sometimes mean an Advisor or their Associate has to spend an afternoon picking up documents from a client.
Once the forms are eventually returned and correctly signed, the documents are sent to the firm’s central processing office. The Advisor waits three business days for the documents to be vetted and filed—and, finally, they can close the sale, provided a competitor hasn’t stepped in, of course, or the client hasn’t changed their mind.
Many wealth management firms are procrastinating on overhauling their paper-based processes, thinking that their clients really don’t mind, and their competitors aren’t hot on their heels. But that isn’t the case.
The Evolution of Expectations
In the recently published PwC’s Strategy & Global Wealth Management Survey for 2016, PwC explores rapidly evolving clients’ technology needs and expectations, which are significantly outpacing many wealth management firms’ tech adoption. It reports that 69% of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) are using online and mobile banking, but only 25% of wealth managers are offering digital channels beyond email. Wealth management clients’ regular engagement with streamlined tech-enabled services is accelerating their expectations. And HNWIs’ tech appetite is only expected to increase:
CIBC World Markets has predicted that between 2012 and 2022, the Canadian economy will see $3.7 trillion in business assets change hands from baby-boomers to the successive generations. This is particularly relevant because of the incoming generations’ preference and high-adoption of tech-enabled businesses. PwC claims that over 75% of HNWIs under 45 years old are confident and enthusiastic about technology, while only 37% are confident in their Advisors’ ability to understand their preferences and meet their needs. With wealth managers currently being ranked among the slowest adopters of digital technology in financial services, PwC estimates that more than a fifth of those incumbent businesses are at risk of losing clients to simplified high-tech solutions—such as robo-services.
Clients Feel Stuck Between Low-Tech and High-Tech
Although simplified high-tech solutions have their merits, for wealth management they fail to fully meet the customized and distinctive client needs of HNWIs. An experienced Advisor or Relationship Manager (RM), being well supported by a proven firm, is far better at meeting the tax avoidance, succession planning, and highly individualized portfolio management needs of HNWIs over simplified tech solutions. However, due to technological obsolescence, client perception of the difficulty to do business with RMs is climbing. This is particularly threatening to relationship-managed firms, because according to CEB Tower Group’s research, 63% of clients will switch wealth managers if they have a high-effort experience.
So, clients are stuck in a difficult position: Dealing with RMs at low-tech firms can be a frustrating and inconvenient process due to all the paper-work flying back and forth—but using a simplified high-tech solution doesn’t fully meet a HNWI’s needs. This tug-of-war between minimizing time and proper wealth management solutions is resulting in lost business for RMs and trapped value for the firms they represent.
Freeing Trapped Value
Accenture’s recent Achieving Digital Performance study found that financial services has some of the most “trapped value” within their existing value chains. In the case of wealth management, trapped value may mean a stagnant relationship with an existing client, the inability to secure a new client acquisition after multiple onboarding meetings, or back-office inefficiencies generating unnecessary costs or delaying revenue-generating activities.
Accenture’s suggestion? Focus on the tech-enablement of the financial services value chain to allow for frictionless client interactions and minimize back office inefficiencies.
Accenture wrote, “For financial services, the question is no longer why to go digital… It’s a matter of how quickly.” As financial services continues to become more saturated with simplified high-tech services and global competitors, simplifying the client onboarding experience to acquire and expand client relationships and reducing back-office and redundancies will continue to become determining factors of sustainable success.
So, Let’s Try this Again
The Advisor presents their proposal to the client and the client approves. So, the Advisor digitally sends the client the applications necessary for implementation with all necessary information and digital signatures already added into the standardized electronic files.
The client fully completes the forms by securely inputting their information from anywhere in the world, at any time, on any device. The auditing trail is automatically generated and accessible by any authorized member of your firm, including the compliance officers.
The Advisor closes the deal, until they continue to deepen the relationship with this client and can use their well-organized and complete records to quickly offer more solutions in the future.
This is the type of client-advisor interaction your clients expect. And as other firms begin to meet expectations that your firm delays for another year, you will slowly but surely begin to lose market share.
With client expectations accelerating passed wealth management firms’ tech capabilities, clients find themselves in a trade-off between doing business easily and getting the full expertise of an Advisor. The firms that are able to build a bridge between evolving client tech expectations and delivering comprehensive advisory services will be able to protect and grow their position in the marketplace.